Marriage Certificate (UK) issued by the General Register Office (GRO)
A marriage certificate is a government issued official statement that two people are married.
Marriage certificates were first introduced in England and Wales in the eighteenth century. The country was divided into registration districts, controlled by a superintendent registrar and overseen by a Registrar General. From this point forwards, all marriage ceremonies were certified and issued a marriage certificate, and the details of the union were recorded in a central database.
You may require a marriage certificate as evidence of a change of name, for divorce proceedings, for consent to travel letters, for issues regarding the legitimacy of a child, or for genealogical purposes.
The original marriage certificate is usually given to the married couple at the conclusion of the marriage ceremony. Certified copies can be obtained from the General Register Office for England and Wales. Both certificates will contain an official signature, which should be recognised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Therefore, an apostille can be affixed to the marriage certificate without the need for notarisation. However, the need for notarisation may still be necessary and this should be checked with the parties receiving the marriage certificate. If notarisation is required, the Notary will contact the General Register Office where the certificate was issued to check its authenticity and validity.
Marriage Certificate (UK) not issued by the General Register Office (GRO)
A marriage certificate can be issued by independent institutions other than the General Register Office. These will not contain an official signature and therefore cannot have an apostille directly attached. If the document needs to be legalised with an apostille, it will need to be notarised in the first instance. A Notary will contact the institution who issued the document and confirm its validity and authenticity. Once validity has been checked and is correct, the notary can then notarise either the original document or a copy of it. At this point, the document can be submitted to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that an apostille can be affixed.
Religious marriages are often not recognised under the law of England and Wales. Therefore, when conducting a religious marriage in England or Wales it is prudent to have a civil registration process as well. This will require the marriage to be registered with the General Register Office and in turn will produce a marriage certificate with an official signature.